NASHVILLE, TN – Health care professionals will tell you if there is one epidemic that deserves greater attention than the opioid and obesity epidemics it is that of not repleting mildly-low potassium levels fast enough. This is why Vanderbilt’s new Code Potassium Repletion Team, or Code K Team for short, is primed to revolutionize the practice of inpatient medicine.
“When patient’s oxygen levels are low we respond pretty darned fast, so why shouldn’t the same go for low potassiums?” asked renowned hypokalemiologist Patrick Korb. “I mean, we do a pretty good job but we could do better, much better. This was a quality-improvement project just waiting to happen. But not too long. We must replete potassiums ASAP!”
Korb rounded up peers in hospital medicine, critical care, and nursing at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in order to draft a new protocol to treat low potassiums. Eight meetings have taken place over the past three months, and they were able to present Gomerblog for a final draft of the to-be-implemented protocol in the Vanderbilt system. The following protocol goes live in two weeks:
1: A potassium of 3.5 or lower is identified
2: Call “Code K” overhead no matter what the hour
3: Bat signal with a large “K” projected into the sky over the hospital
4: Code K team responds within 8 seconds
5: Code K team appears at bedside within 45 seconds
6: Potassium given by PO, IV, IM, IO, PR, SC, intranasal, and intrathecal routes
7: Stat potassium ordered to ensure it is at goal
8: Serial potassium levels q5minutes until discharge
Vanderbilt’s Code K Team isn’t up and running yet, but news travels fast in health care. Even though Code Potassium Repletion Teams have never been created let alone studied in terms of their effects on morbidity & mortality, they are multiplying like bunnies across both academic and non-academic health care systems. Code Mg Teams are surely not too far into the distant future.
“Perhaps the world will be a happier place if all our potassiums are greater than 4,” said Korb, who never passes on an opportunity to tell people his potassium is 4.4. “That’s what I would call utopia.”